Groundhog Day countdown to Tokyo 2021

July 23, 2020

Bree Masters (athletics), Jean van der Westhuyzen (kayaking) and Alex Graham (swimming) mark a year to go until the Tokyo Games

The Gold Coast's finest athletes are counting down to the Tokyo Olympics, again.

Thursday 23 July marks one year to go to the rescheduled 2021 Games.

Kayaker Jean van der Westhuyzen has already booked his ticket, while fellow Bond University students Bree Masters (athletics) and Alex Graham (swimming) hope to join him to compete against the world’s best.

“I was super lucky to be one of the last athletes to qualify for the Olympics before COVID starting getting really crazy,” van der Westhuyzen said.

“The Gold Coast is in a pretty fortunate position compared to other parts of the world because we can still get out and train and move forward with our normal training activities.

“I embraced the postponement as a great opportunity. We get another year of preparation, another year to sharpen our skills and to improve, and hopefully myself and partner Tom Green will be better than we were last year.”

Reigning Australian and former world beach sprint champion Masters said the postponed Olympics has given her more time to transition from sand to the athletics track.

“The Olympics is not something I ever thought I would get to achieve,” Masters said.

“I only did an athletics race because my partner (former Stawell Gift champion and sprinter) Matthew Rizzo was competing and I thought, why not?

“It was unfortunate that the Games got postponed.

"I thought I was running quite well leading into Australian titles last year, but on the other hand, I get another year of training under the belt.

“I will put everything into trying to achieve Tokyo 2021.”

For Graham – who claimed a world championship in the 4x200 freestyle relay at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju – his goals remain the same.

“I was getting good results before lockdown and I know what I need to do to get those results, so that is going to be the benchmark for me now,” Graham said.

“I want to get on the team and I’m really pushing to get an individual spot for the 200m freestyle.

“I’d love to get that spot and make a final and then push for a medal. That is certainly on my mind all of the time.

Graham says sports fans should mark one particular race in their Tokyo Games diary.

“The most exciting race at the Olympics will be the 4x200m freestyle relay," he said.

"It was fantastic at 2019 Worlds and something we are really working on.

"We are talking as a group a lot and keeping the motivation and it is super exciting.”